Today the church remembers the 19th Century Patron Saint of Hawaii: Saint Marianne Cope of Molokai, Mother of Outcasts and Healer.
While the church normally honors saints on the days of their death, Saint Marianne is the rare exception, being honored today, the day of her birth.
She entered the Franciscan order at a young age, and worked as a teacher and hospital administrator early in her life. In 1883 Sister Marianne answered the call of King Kalakaua, the Merrie Monarch of the good island kingdom, asking for desperate help to tend to lepers on the island.
Armed with a warm heart and experience organizing hospitals, she took charge of the mission, founding the first general hospital in Oahu. When the government changed policies, ended the forced exile of lepers, and closed the specialty hospitals, St. Marianne saw that those living with leprosy, and their children, were still being ostracized and demonized by those who didn’t understand the disease.
She stayed to personally care and accompany them .
Because of this care and concern, especially of those who are ostracized, she is seen as the modern matron Saint of not only those who live with leprosy, but also those who live with HIV/AIDS, and those who identify as outcasts.
In these days, many have evoked her name in association with this current pandemic, especially because her oft repeated mantra to her nurses and doctors is echoing in our halls these days, “Wash your hands!”
St. Marianne Cope is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that we are called to tend to those who are cast out by the world and, even after the powers say the work is done, continue on working with them until ”justice rolls down like a river to wash all oppression away!”
-historical bits gleaned from Illes, Daily Magic.
-icon written by Sister Rosaire Kopczenski, OSF